Crush injuries are all too common in the maritime industry and can result from falling cargo, crane accidents, or a fall overboard that leads to being trapped between two vessels. If you have suffered an accident that causes a crush injury, a maritime lawyer can help you determine your rights and seek compensation for medical and other expenses.
What Are Crush Injuries?
Crush injuries are any injuries caused by pressure on the part of the body that is severe enough to result in physical damage. The damage may be as minor as a bruise or as severe as broken, splintered bones or collapsed or punctured lungs.
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Crush injuries occur most commonly in the legs or feet. Upper extremity crush injuries are the next most common type, followed by a crushed torso.
The obvious result of a crush injury is tissue damage. A crush accident can cause skin damage, cuts and tears, broken bones, injured nerves, and damaged organs. There are also other more severe and less obvious complications that are associated with crush injuries.
Complications of Crush Injuries
A crush injury may not seem life-threatening, but it can result in serious complications:
Rhabdomyolysis occurs when the crushed muscle tissue begins to break down. The broken-down components circulate into the blood and must pass through the kidneys.
The kidneys may be unable to process all that material and get blocked and stop working. The result is toxicity in the blood that can be deadly. This is also called crush syndrome.
Another very serious potential complication of a crush injury is sepsis or systemic infection. The open wounds caused by a crush can cause infection to set in.
Depending on the type of injury and its severity, inner tissue, like deep muscles and bone, may be exposed to infection. A systemic infection can lead to death if not treated aggressively.
Compartment syndrome is another complication that can result from any type of crush injury. This occurs when pressure builds up in a confined space within the body.
This can lead to oxygen starvation and cell death in that part of the body. Compartment syndrome caused by a crush injury is considered acute and can lead to limb loss, paralysis, or even death.
Treating Crush Injuries
All crushes should be taken seriously and require emergency medical care. Immediate first aid usually involves:
- Stopping any bleeding by applying pressure
- Covering the crushed area with a bandage
- Elevating that area of the body above the heart if possible
- Stabilizing the spine if any damage has been done to the neck or head
Medical professionals treat crush injuries in different ways depending on the specifics of the injury. In general, though, the patient is given fluids to prevent low blood pressure and shock.
The patient is then usually given treatment for treating potential kidney failure. Emergency surgery may be needed to stop bleeding and repair damage or to relieve the pressure of compartment syndrome. Infections are treated with antibiotics.
A patient may need multiple follow-up surgeries to repair damage and restore function to the affected part of the body if possible.
What Causes Crush Injuries in Maritime Settings?
Crush injuries are the unfortunate result of accidents that often occur in maritime work environments. Any job that takes place around large equipment and oversized cargo means crushing injuries are possible.
In a port, for instance, a worker may get crushed between a forklift and a wall during an accident or by a crane in operation.
Cargo, both on ships and in ports, can also cause crush injuries if it falls on a worker. A fall into the water can also cause a worker to be crushed between two vessels or between a ship and a dock.
Most instances of crush injuries caused by maritime accidents are preventable. These are just a few examples of the types of accidents that can lead to crush injuries:
- Falls from a ship into the water are often caused by poor deck conditions and clutter that is easy to trip over.
- Poor communication between workers, which results from inadequate training can lead to accidents if one worker does not know where another is while operating equipment such as a crane.
- Improper securing of cargo can cause it to shift and fall.
- If equipment isn’t working right, it can cause a worker to suffer a crushed limb.
Crushing accidents happen all too often in the maritime industry. In 2016 a worker was crushed to death when cargo was being unloaded from a ship to an offshore rig in Australia. As the weather worsened, the ship backed away from the rig, and workers began to secure the cargo on the ship’s deck.
Large waves caused an unsecured container to shift, crushing a man between two containers. A review of the accident determined that safety management guidance was not in place, and as a result, the crew made errors in judgment that led to the tragic accident.
Your Rights Following a Crushing Accident
If you suffered a crush injury due to an accident on the job in a port, in an offshore setting, or on a ship, you could be entitled to significant compensation for your pain and suffering, lost wages, and medical bills.
As an offshore worker or longshoreman in a port, there are laws that entitle you to workers’ compensation regardless of who was at fault in the accident.
If you are a seaman, the Jones Act allows you to seek compensation if you can determine an employer’s negligence. Anything your employer should have provided, such as training, equipment maintenance, a safety system, or neglected safety gear, could prove negligence.
Speak with an experienced maritime lawyer to file your claim and find out what you may be owed. If you are killed in a crush accident, your dependents will also have certain rights, and a lawyer can be a helpful advocate in guaranteeing that they get what they need.
Make sure you contact a lawyer to guide you before you sign anything offered to you by your employer or their insurance company. They will likely try to settle with you for less than you deserve.